Date: 24th December 2010 at 10:55am
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Manchester United start a hectic festive programme with a home clash with Sunderland. A win, over Steve Bruce`s outfit would, with Chelsea and Arsenal clashing on Monday evening, open up our gap at the top and put the pressure back on our rivals. But, we should point out Sunderland are a good side and having already thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge won`t be fearful of coming to Old Trafford.

Vital Quotes:

Sir Alex Ferguson and Steve Bruce have history, Steve Bruce lead many a United team managed by Sir Alex and was one of the best servants Sir Alex has had during his very long tenure as the Manchester United manager.

But they are fierce rivals now and both with a very competitive streak, Ahead of the clash, on Boxing Day, Sir Alex has spoken about the need to treat Sunderland with the utmost respect, commenting in the media,

“Sunderland are a team in form and I think Steve is getting there. I thought we were lucky at the start of the season to get appoint up there. It`s the hardest game we`ve had away from home.”

“Their win at Chelsea was a perfect performance. We will be in for a hard time.”

It promises to be an enthralling clash!

Manchester United Team News:

Sir Alex has a few injury doubts. Antonio Valencia is side-lined for awhile to come and the perennially injured Owen Hargreaves is also out. But Michael Owen is fit again, for the first time since injuring a hamstring in the reciprocating fixture.

The boss will also be hoping that Paul Scholes has shaken of a niggling injury to take a midfield berth.

Perhaps the biggest question relates to the formation, will Sir Alex play Dimitar Berbatov alongside Wayne Rooney or will the striking support come from the flanks?

Thankfully, a flu virus that swept through the club affecting Anderson, Carrick, Vidic and Nani is unlikely to impact on Sir Alex`s plans.

Player to watch: Wayne Rooney

Still not scored from open play since March this year but surely it is only a matter of time and could Boxing Day be that time?

Sunderland Team News:

Steve Bruce returns to his old stomping ground with some major problems. Danny Welbeck, on loan form United, is unable to play against his parent club. Lee Cattermole is suspended having received five yellow cards. John Mensah has joined Titus Bramble and Michael Turner on the treatment table. A former United youngster, Fraizer Campbell is also out with a knee injury and David Meyler is hoping to shake off a knock he received on his comeback last timeout.

Player to watch: Asamoah Gyan

Steve Bruce`s expensive recruit has settled in remarkably well in the Premier League and looks to be a natural goal scorer. Don`t let the fact that he`s a Manchester united supporter lull you into a false sense of security, he`d love nothing better than to score against us even if he does speak highly of us remarking,

“I`ve been waiting for this for a long time. I supported United since I was a boy. My hero was Eric Cantona.”

“I hope I can score there because, although I`m a United fan, I`m doing my job.”

“Maybe I`ll try and swap shirts.”

Match Facts & Stats

As far as league form goes, United are on a better run than Sunderland. United have yet to lose this season an in their last six fixtures have recorded 2 draws and 4 wins with those 4 wins coming in the last four games.

Sunderland, in their last five fixtures, have 2 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss!

United also hold the upper hand in recent fixtures between the two clubs having not lost in the last 17 meetings between the two clubs.

Match Prediction:

Sunderland showed, at Stamford Bridge, when they demolished Chelsea that they can live with the best. United are unbeaten in the Premier League this season and only a loss to West Ham in the Carling Cup blots our copy book. This will be a tight affair and patience could well be a virtue but we`re backing United to emerge victors, 2-0 perhaps!

Next Fixtures:

Our next fixture, hot-on-the-heels of this one, is a trip to St Andrew sot take on Birmingham City on December 28th.